Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall Harvest

Autumn is a beautiful time of year, but for us at Maggie's Farm, it can be a little sad. Autumn means the rattle of leaves and slick roads, snow grown thick over the pastures, the coop with a cold white hat of ice. It means water will freeze in the buckets and need to be kicked out and refilled eternally. Kids' mittens go missing (one from each pair) and the snow (avert your eyes if you are squeamish) encases layers of dog turd and toys.

Autumn is also the time of harvest.

We had a pretty good crop of pumpkins this year-- a first! And too many cucumbers (have to learn to pickle them one of these years) and many, many pig-planted tomatoes.

Our apples, unsprayed for two years now, are sorry looking things. But they do provide for a bounty of pies and crumbles.

We also have lamb, or ram anyway. A few weekends ago, we "harvested" Rahm, our Icelandic ram. Rahm was two years old, but with a strange ancientness in his bearing, his slow and careful gait, his propensity to plop himself down under the coop or against the barn and just sit all day like Ferdinand.

Rahm had scurs, the kind that curved straight back towards his skull and needed frequent trimming. Dan and I spent many a Saturday afternoon wrestling poor Rahm to a sitting position (Not easy as he was a complete chub) and going at those thick scurs with a branch trimmer or, when this failed, a hacksaw. Yes, there was blood, lots of it. Also Rahm's hooves grew freakishly fast, requiring even more ram wrangling. Every time we'd do the trimming thing, I'd say something like "Poor Rahm, I feel so bad for him.

We ought to just put him out of his misery and eat him." But, gutless farmers that we are, we left the big guy be.

This year, though, we'd sold all the lambs and most of the sheep, and our freezer was growing kind of light on lamb. We had one ram lamb, Ewok, a beautiful solid black with (so far.... knock on wood) no offending scurs.

We knew that with the turn of the seasons Rahm and Ewok would start up with the ramly-ram posturing and butting and that the three remaining ewes (Copper, Acorn and Penny) just needed one boy around.

We decided that we might as well eat the big, hard-to-care-for, scurs-growing-into-his-head one.

As you might recall, we've tried a few different slaughter methods. Our first ram, Gus, a nasty bugger, was slaughtered and butchered by our barber Dwayne (Yes, it IS that small a town). And the year after that I had a horrible experience with driving a vanful of sheep to a slaughterhouse. Last year, we had a mobile butcher come out to "do" our pigs and sheep more humanely. But the butcher wouldn't come out for one sheep, and Dwayne retired a few years back. What to do? Perhaps it was time to "man up" (Hate that expression) and do the thing ourselves.....

Um, no.

Lucky for us, we have some very kind friends (Thanks you guys!) who are also small farmers with more expertise in butchering and all the tools too. Dan and Adam went down to the barn with the rifle and meat saw and ropes and hooks and all sorts of terrible implements, while I hung out with the kids (Yes, this is pretty much my role when it comes to slaughter). A short while later, I ventured down to watch a bit. A short bit. As the caul fat was pulled from Rahm's gut cavity. (Never thought I'd be doing THAT back in my vegetarian days). Then Adam's wife, Emily, and I took the all kids (6 in all) to a local fundraising event for the high school athletic teams.

Later we had a barbecue (Not sheep,mind you. Definitely too soon for that.) It was, for me anyway, the easiest most pleasant slaughter day yet.

But still, the feel of fall-- endings and lapsings, chill winds and more to come-- lingers.


Dan said...

Certainly a more challenging experience than bellying up to the buffet on the cruise ship and helping ourselves to lamb curry, lamb shank, and roast leg of rahm, er, lamb. Very tasty.

Chai Chai said...

He would not have survived this long without your help.

Perri said...

Thanks for the comments Dan and Chai Chai!

All very true! But just the same, it will be a little while before we can enjoy his sort of dinner.

I'm getting used to the process (A good thing) but not quite all the way there yet.